What is happiness? Can we define it, can we name what it is for us? If you had to describe your view of what happiness looks like, feels like, sounds like, what words would you use? So often we hear people say that family is happiness. That is certainly true for me, no two people make me happier than Kim and Lucy. They are smart, funny, caring, creative, calm and authentic. All things I value in others. I find happiness in them. I am happy knowing I can be myself, that they will hold me accountable, celebrate my strengths and support me in my weaknesses. In a very real sense happiness for me is being myself; edging toward being better, having the humility to laugh at myself and having the true awareness of being able to celebrate my real gifts.
I am at heart someone who likes to serve, who likes to serve my way, but who does not expect to go my way. In other words I like to be involved with others, get to know others, find out how I can help others, be creative in my serving but above all know that things will work out in their own organic way, sometimes the way I want, often not. I recently told someone that I grew up knowing I was “different” which meant I never expected things to be done my way or to be done the “normal way”. I am fortunate in that I am quite dull, ordinary and conventional but what I want to make me happy is not the norm. In other words what I eat, wear, say and read is just about the same as any 50-something male. But what I want to make me happy is not the same as others. I don’t want “stuff”, I love to take public transit and I would rather work all day than take a vacation. In short I am a minimalist in a consumer culture and I am someone who loves my work in a culture that can’t wait to retire to play golf in Florida.
Each of us has to find our own happiness but it is important to listen to others to understand where our happiness fits in the larger picture. For instance my happiness comes from being of service, being of service in my own unique way. In order to truly be of service to others, and not just think I am, I need to understand what others really need. I have no interest providing X when what others need is Y. On the other hand I have no interest in just offering X in the most conventional way, I feel called to offer X in my own way. People like sermons, they want to learn something, they want to be entertained, and they want to be part of something bigger. So I visit people, listen to their interests and passions, their concerns and joys, and I create sermons that come from my own interests that still speak to what others want and need.
I really don’t have many talents and it is good that I know this. Because I am a talker, a loud talker and work as a Minister people naturally come to me for advice. It would be so easy to pretend to myself I know these answers. But I don’t. I have no common sense and have next to no skills. But as Popeye says, “I knows what I knows”. I keep my advice to very specific things, like knowing your happiness, making a difference, and having fun along the way. I think analytically about everything, I have been told more than once that I over-think things. Guilty as charged! But all this thinking allows me to find what makes me happy and then just do it. It also allows me to help others find their happiness, in their own voice and encourage them to do it.
At the end of the day all we have is our personal and communal joy. Its best we start looking for it now.